The new Forester 2.5 Sport has more power and styling dazzle. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
The new Forester 2.5 Sport has more power and styling dazzle. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

Subaru SA’s Forester range is about to be expanded with a new, more powerful 2.5l petrol version to join the 2.0l that has been with us since the fifth-generation Forester was unveiled in 2019.

The normally aspirated 2.5l direct-injection four-cylinder engine is the same unit found in the larger Subaru Outback. It has horizontally opposed cylinders in what’s known as a “boxer” arrangement and delivers outputs of 136kW and 239Nm — respectively 21kW and 43Nm over the 2.0 boxer engine.

The 2.5 version of Subaru’s most popular model range will make its showroom debut in March, but we got our hands on a pre-launch model last week and the much-needed steroid boost puts more spring in this midsized SUV’s step. Anodyne power has been a bugbear in the 2.0 version and the new 2.5 accelerates with more zing, while cruising and overtaking with less effort.

The only gearbox choice remains a continuously variable transmission (CVT), but it’s one of the better CVTs I’ve driven. It has programmed steps to feel more like a regular transmission, though it still doesn’t completely hide the typical characteristics of belt-driven gearboxes, namely the tendency to drone and to have a slipping-clutch effect.

Subaru says the 2.5’s fuel consumption is the same as the 2.0, officially rated at 7.6l/100km. The test car didn’t meet the claim, but its 9.2l figure was a decent achievement for the vehicle’s size and power output. In fact it trounced the 10.6l figure we achieved in the 2.0 version as the engine didn’t have to work as hard.

Colourful orange accents and water repellent cloth seats. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
Colourful orange accents and water repellent cloth seats. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

Wearing 18-inch alloy wheels to distinguish it from the 2.0 model, the Forester 2.5i is available in ES and Sport ES guises, the latter additionally perked up with vibrant exterior and interior accents.

The Sport is offered in five exclusive colour combinations, contrasting the body colour with distinctive orange and black trim pieces. Inside, orange trim on the air vents and seat stitching gives the cabin a perky feel, and new water-repellent cloth seats are more resistant to paw prints and messy toddlers.

Subaru’s cabins have come a long way from their cheap and plasticky origins, and the new Forester’s soft-touch surfaces feel pleasantly upmarket.

The EyeSight Driver Assist system comes standard on all Forester variants except the baseline 2.0 model. It integrates camera-based safety features such as adaptive cruise control, automatic pre-collision braking, lane departure and sway warning, and lane-keep assist.

Blind spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert are standard features too, as are cornering headlamps with smart high-beam assist that automatically switches the headlights between high and low beams to avoid blinding oncoming cars.

Electrically adjustable front seats, rear-view cameras and keyless operation are standard range-wide features, and the touchscreen infotainment integrates satellite navigation in the higher models.

Power’s laid down through symmetrical all-wheel drive (AWD) with X-Mode. The latter is a driver-selectable system that enhances the Forester’s off-road capability by adapting the engine, transmission, AWD system, and stability control on slippery mud, gravel or rocky terrain. The system also includes hill descent control.

Despite its elevated ground clearance the Forester feels more like a car than an SUV and displays fleet-footed agility through corners, with minimum body roll. It’s particularly adept in slippery conditions thanks to an AWD system that continuously splits torque to individual wheels to deal with varying road conditions, in conjunction with stability control and torque vectoring.

Model line-up

Subaru Forester 2.0i-CVT

Subaru Forester 2.0i-S ES CVT

Subaru Forester 2.5i-S ES CVT

Subaru Forester 2.5i Sport ES CVT

A five-year/150,000km warranty and three-year/75,000km maintenance plan come standard. Prices will be announced closer to the March launch.

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